May 6, 1954: Roger Bannister runs first ever four-minute mile
You may have run a mile, but have you ever done a four-minute mile? This feat is common practice with runners around the world. Back in the 1950s, though, runners didn’t have time for this. One future neurologist pushed himself to the limit to accomplish this goal.
Born to run
While studying medicine at the University of Oxford, Roger Bannister decided to take up running. His main inspiration was Sydney Wooderson, who broke world records following ankle surgery. Following numerous wins, Bannister was determined to make it to the 1952 Olympics. With some intense training, he was able to head to Helsinki. At the men’s 1500-meter, Bannister managed to finish in fourth place. The only thing separating him and Gold medalist Josy Barthel was eight milliseconds. Bannister did manage to secure an Olympic record for British runners in the process.
In a commercial break’s time
After his Olympic run, Bannister needed to push himself even further. He decided to break the four-minute mile barrier. Running a full mile in under four minutes seemed nearly impossible for many athletes. Many before Bannister have tried and failed numerous times. To get himself ready, Bannister declined every race following the Olympics. If he kept racing, he wouldn’t have much left for this important mission.
Race for the prize
On May 6, 1954, British AAA and Oxford University joined forces for an old fashioned racing event. Bannister, who represented Oxford, chose to break the record at this race. At 6 PM, the race officially started with Bannister taking over the lead from the start. Halfway through the race, Bannister lost the lead to Christopher Chataway. With only a half lap left, Bannister channeled his inner Road Runner and took the win. Announcer (and co-founder of the Guinness Book of Records) Norris McWhirter was stunned at Bannister’s time. Like Ryan Seacrest, he delayed telling the crowd his time for a long time. When he finally revealed Bannister ran for three minutes and 59.4 seconds, everyone erupted in cheers. Later that year, Bannister retired from racing to become a neurologist. Over 60 years later, his influence is still felt with runners everywhere.